I’ve been coaching business owners lately, of course. A couple of women preparing for job interviews. And one getting ready for a radio interview.
I gave them all the same suggestion. Put your feet flat on the floor and stay in touch with that sensation.
It might seem like an odd place to start. When you’re girding yourself for a challenging conversation, the tendency is to focus on what you’re going to say. What words are going to come out of your mouth? And what will the other person think of them? And what will you say next? And will you get the sale/the job/the outcome you want?
It’s easy to get caught up in the swirl of thoughts and fears and hopes.
Here’s the thing about putting your feet on the floor and staying in touch with that sensation. It’s the groundwork you must do in order to sound credible, confident and relaxed. (Groundwork. Interesting, isn’t it?)
People sometimes use “keep your feet on the ground” as a metaphor for being practical or realistic or sensible. Not getting lost in a flight of fancy.
But I mean it quite literally. I’m encouraging you to sit with both of your feet flat on the floor. With enough pressure there that you have some sensation in the soles of your feet. And you begin to sense the energy coming up from the earth. And going back down.
It’s common for women, especially, to pull one or both feet off the floor. Rest them against the legs of the chair. Or pull one all the way up and sit on it. Or cross our ankles so the sides of our feet rather than the soles are touching the floor.
You’ll notice that especially when we’re uneasy or when we feel the spotlight’s on us or when we’re not sure where we’re going in a conversation. We find ourselves in a (metaphorical) awkward position, and we assume a literal awkward position.
Our physical energy rises so it’s concentrated in our head and neck and shoulders. One or both feet come off the floor. We lose our connection to the chair. And it becomes much more likely we’ll get carried away. (Another interesting metaphor.)
Often, babbling ensues.
To be fully present, engaged and in control of a conversation (or at least in control of yourself), you need that energy working for you instead of against you.
Here’s how to make it happen.
- Sit squarely in your chair, your weight evenly distributed on the seat. (Don’t laugh – you start paying attention to this and I bet you’ll notice you tend to sit on one cheek more than the other.)
- Put both feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. So they’re not touching each other and not splayed either. (You might play around with this. Notice how much less grounded you feel if you put your knees, ankles and feet right up against each other – you lose your solid base.)
- Sense the bottoms of your feet – really notice the connection between you and the floor.
- Straighten your spine.
- Breathe. Let your lungs fill completely so you feel the expansion.
- Be fully in your body. You may be able to get in touch with the energy center in your lower belly. If it’s elusive, sit like this for a bit and then try it again.
- Let the energy move you and move through you as you engage in conversation. Once you’re grounded, there’s no need to be stiff or rigid; you’ll move as you talk. And listen.
- The idea is to come back to that very centered place. Especially when you’re saying something important.
Feet-on-the-floor is a habit, of course. If your habit is sitting tip-toed or with your ankles crossed or your legs wrapped around the chair, it may feel weird at first to plant your feet flat on the ground.
But habits can change. It’s worth practicing when there’s nothing particular going on so that when the conversational stakes are high you come across as comfortable, confident and in command.
And of course I’d love to hear what it’s like for you as you experiment with this. Share your experience.